Sifan Hassan Completes Triple With Gold in 10,000m

August 7, 2021

TOKYO — Somehow Sifan Hassan did it. 

In the final leg of her unprecedented 5000m-1500m-10,000m triple, less than 24 hours after taking bronze in the 1,500m, Hassan returned to the track and survived a brutal attempt to break her by world record holder Letesenbet Gidey, and kicked away the final 100m to win gold in 29:55.32 with Kalkidan Gezagedne of Bahrain (29:56.18) overtaking Gidey (30:01.72) for silver.

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Gidey took the lead just before the end of the 7th lap and would soon start pushing a relentless pace that took its toll on everyone in the field.

Just before halfway (15.08.3) on lap 12, Gidey upped the ante and started reeling off 70 second laps (lap 19 was 69.8 and lap 13 71.7) until a mile to go. One by one, women fell off the back of the pace until Hellen Obiri was the last to crack with 6 laps to go, leaving 3 medal contenders: Gidey, Hassan and Gezagedne.

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Then on lap 21 Gidey turned her head and said something to Hassan. Soon the pace noticeably slowed. The 21st lap was 72.3, the 22nd 75.0, the 23rd 75.7, and the 24th 74.2. Was Gidey playing rope-a-dope? Or were the pace and heat too much for her?

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It would prove to be the latter, as Gidey continued to lead on the final lap, but with Hassan and Gezagedne right on her shoulder. Gidey did increase the pace, but there was no separation between the three even as they went around the final turn. Then coming onto the homestretch Hassan struck and made her bid for gold. She went around Gidey and only Gezagedne could respond, as Gidey would coast home for bronze. Hassan then gradually pulled away from Gezagedne down the homestretch for the historic gold. She would put her hand up with an emphatic #1, before laying on the track and receiving medical assistance (ice packs brought to her).

The pace, heat and five previous races had clearly worn her down, but gold and history were hers.

Analysis and reaction after video and results

Weather: 82 degrees, 80% humidity, feels like temp 93

12993NEDSifan HASSAN29:55.32
21346BRNKalkidan GEZAHEGNE29:56.18
31845ETHLetesenbet GIDEY30:01.72
42763KENHellen OBIRI30:24.27 PB
51163BDIFrancine NIYONSABA30:41.93 NR
62754KENIrene Chebet CHEPTAI30:44.00 PB
72665JPNRirika HIRONAKA31:00.71 PB
82113GERKonstanze KLOSTERHALFEN31:01.97
92013GBREilish MCCOLGAN31:04.46
103892USAEmily SISSON31:09.58
113658TURYasemin CAN31:10.05 SB
123890USAKarissa SCHWEIZER31:19.96
133872USAAlicia MONSON31:21.36
141409CANAndrea SECCAFIEN31:36.36
151744ERIDolshi TESFU31:37.98
162751KENSheila CHELANGAT31:48.23
172008GBRJessica JUDD31:56.80
183549SWEMeraf BAHTA32:10.49
193098NZLCamille BUSCOMB32:10.49 SB
203384RSADominique SCOTT32:14.05
212675JPNHitomi NIIYA32:23.87 SB
222661JPNYuka ANDO32:40.77
232365ISRSelamawit TEFERI32:46.46
243700UGAMercyline CHELANGAT33:10.90
3073NORKaroline Bjerkeli GRØVDALDNF

What Sifan Hassan did in Tokyo is one of the most impressive feats in the history of distance running

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We’ve already spent many words praising Hassan for even attempting a triple that even she viewed as “crazy.” But it is worth pointing out just how crazy. Over the course of nine days, Hassan ran six races against the best women in the world and won two golds and a bronze. Those six races covered 24,500 meters (61.25 laps) and included two in one day — one a 1500 heat where she fell at the bell and still got up and won, the other a gold-medal run in the 5000 meters. Hassan is just the second woman in history to win three individual medals on the track at the same Olympics, following her Dutch countrywoman Fanny Blankers-Koen’s triple gold in 1948.

To win medals in the 1500, 5k, and 10k at the same Olympics requires ridiculous range, incredible endurance, and a big kick. Hassan has all three and the result is one of the most insane accomplishments we’ve ever seen in distance running.

Sifan Hassan summoned her inner Roger Bannister

After the race, Sifan Hassan said she was thinking of Roger Bannister on the final lap. “I remember the man who run under 4 minutes, on his last 300, he almost collapsed. [So I was thinking] I will ‘do or die’. When I finished, I collapsed. My neck was just twisted. I can’t believe I did it,” she told Lewis Johnson of NBC.

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Later, Hassan said she had to dig deeper than ever to get the win today and said if she hadn’t lost yesterday, she mentally wouldn’t have been able to win today.

“From the beginning I was really tired. I felt like I was sprinting. I was thinking about yesterday the whole race, and I’ve never gone deep like I did today … Actually in 10000m, especially in championships for me, the first three kilometers are [normally] boring because it’s slow, but today I felt like sprinting from the beginning. That’s why I didn’t even go in the last 300 meters, I just went in the last 100m.”

The pace took its toll on EVERYONE including good heat runners like Emily Sisson

Off the top of our heads we could never remember a race like this one, where someone pushed and pushed the pace, and then just stopped doing it. Gidey’s best bet to win was to run away from Hassan who ran the 1500m final less than 24 hours previously.

But with 1600m to go Gidey stopped pushing. The pace combined with the heat was too much for even her. She had to make it to the finish line to get a medal.

All but 9 women got lapped in this field and woman after woman was looking extremely ragged falling to the track or infield at the finish. The woman who looked the best at the finish was actually Gezahegne.

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One of the women lapped was US champ Emily Sisson who at the Trials in the heat of Eugene looked great winning in 31:03. She ran 31:09 today for 10th, but that left her a lap down, and showed the gap between the Americans and Hassan. While the temperature at the start today was the same as in Eugene (82 degrees), there were differences. It was much more humid in Tokyo (feels like temp of 93 vs 83 in Eugene, dew point of 75 vs 65), although Eugene was run in rising temperatures in the sun. This wasn’t a poor run by Sisson.

Francine Niyonsaba has a lot to be proud of

Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist at 800 – who was barred from that event as well as the 1500 due to the DSD rules and was ridiculously DQd from the 5000 heats here for allegedly stepping on or inside the rail – had a fantastic race tonight as she ran a huge pb of 30:41.93 to finish 5th.

Regardless of what one thinks of the DSD rules – and we support them and think they should apply to all events – what Niyonsaba accomplished is impressive. It’s not easy for a 1:55 800 runner to move up to the 10,000 and finish 17 seconds behind Hellen Obiri.

Niyonsaba raised a fist of defiance at the finish. “I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself,” repeated Niyonsabaa after the race. ”My perseverance is my answer to those people [who] want to try to stop me. I’m blessed. I never gave up. Thank you.”

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PBs for Hellen Obiri, Francine Niyonsba and Irene Cheptai, Ririka Hironaka

The four women above all set PRs which deserves a special mention considering the conditions. Obiri and Cheptai have global accomplishments, so their finishes weren’t unexpected but 20 year-old Japanese runner Hironaka stepped up big time with a 31:00 pb for 7th to follow up her 9th place finish in the 5,000.

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